Astonishing government gaffes—but will they influence  the Hamilton West by-election outcome?  

Government bloopers  have dominated the  headlines over the  past week: yet do  they foretell the  end of the Ardern  government? Or, for that matter, the  result of the Hamilton by-election on Saturday.

The Prime Minister, deftly dancing  on the head of  a pin  over the  backdown on  the 3 Waters “mistake”,  was a  sight to behold. Just as comical was  the  performance  of  Broadcasting  Minister Willie Jackson on TVNZ’s Q+A which won for itself  the headline  (in the NZ Herald): “Jackson’s bizarre interview a  trainwreck”.

These are only symptomatic of a  government standing above a precipice almost demanding to be pushed over it.

Yet whether the electors of Hamilton  West will give it the first shove is  far from clear.

Certainly the National leader Christopher Luxon, when he  was campaigning there last week, got no sense of a  landslide coming in his direction.

National’s candidate,  Tama Potaka, who has his own record of personal achievement in the electorate, has  redoubled  his  efforts, but  accepts  he is not home  and  hosed.  

Of course Labour is sitting on a  massive majority of  over 6000,  and there is  no recent  history  of  a majority of that proportion vanishing in the space of  two years.

Still, Opposition parties  should be able  to exploit  the  current mood  running through NZ. Apparently, Kiwis have become increasingly unhappy during the second half of 2022.

Of more than 6500 people who took part in the most recent Stuff NowNext Local survey, the proportion of respondents  describing themselves as unhappy has doubled in six months. It rose from 12% last June, to 20% in August, then 25% in November.

Whether  those  who put themselves  in that echelon  will express their unhappiness in the  ballot  box is  uncertain. In other  eras  they  would of course be marching in the streets  to tell  politicians how  they felt.

As Dr Bryce Edwards wrote in a post republished by Point of Order:

“We need to acknowledge the real divisions in society are growing, and recognise they are based on genuine pain – especially in terms of economic struggles – and then have political conversations and debates that aren’t plagued with point scoring, nastiness, and smears. The growing social divisions need attention. The political polarisation that develops out of this  needn’t be a bad thing if it involves a focus on policy solutions rather than toxicity towards opponents”.  

By  nominating  election day for Hamilton West  so close  to Christmas, the Ardern  government did  its best to ensure  electors might be  focussed on other matters, and the  Labour candidate, Georgie Dansey,  has not been  inclined to identify herself too closely with any  of the Ardern government’s  achievements, such as   they might be.

Let’s not forget that Dr Gaurav Sharma, who won the seat for Labour in 2020 with that  massive majority  but subsequently quarrelled with Labour’s  leadership, is running for re-election and might  have  some  residual  support.

So even though  most recent  polls have  shown National  ahead  of  Labour  across NZ, the  singular  features of Hamilton West  suggest it  could ensure  the result  will be very close on Saturday. 

Labour  strategists believe  their candidate  could pull a favourable result from the  hat against the odds. They think that will instil  the  belief  in the party ranks  that  Labour could still hold enough  of the  seats it won in 2020 to be, with its allies, once  more on the governing  benches after the general election next year.  

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